IRANIYAN

A movie review by Balaji Balasubramaniam


Cast: Murali, Meena, Raghuvaran, Ranjit, 'Thalaivaasal' Vijay
Music: Deva
Direction: Vincent Selva

Filming the life story of a historic personality is always a risky proposition. Considering the religious and caste tensions always simmering in Tamil Nadu, the risk is even greater when the person involved is inextricably linked to caste-based oppression. Vincent Selva(who previously made the vastly different Priyamudan) appears to have paid the price for selecting such a figure to make a movie about. Even the name of his movie has been trimmed to just Iraniyan from Vaattaakkudi Iraniyan to remove the reference to the place the hero hailed from and a caption in the beginning advertises the movie "as just fiction with all resemblances to characters or locations being coincidental".

Ironically, the biggest problem with the movie is this emphasis on it being fictitious rather than real. While Iraniyan being an actual revolutionary would have increased interest in the movie since biographies are rather rare in tamil cinema, stressing the fact that it is just fiction makes the movie seem like just another 'masala' movie where the hero rescues the poor of his village from their cruel zamindar.

The movie chronicles the last chapter in the life of Iraniyan, who was a freedom fighter. When the movie opens, India has just gained independence and though all prisoners are ordered to be freed, one of the British generals orders Iraniyan and his friends to be executed. But Iraniyan escapes and makes his way back to his village where his uncle's daugher Ponni(Meena) is waiting for him. There he sees that the villagers are oppressed by the zamindar Aande(Raghuvaran) and his sons. He fights for their rights and is soon forced to hide in the forests, from where he plots his revenge.

There are several cuts throughout the movie and this leads to a lack of continuity at several places. Individual pieces of dialog (presumably identifying the place) have also been snipped. But looking beyond this, Iraniyan is an ambitious effort from the director. A village from the 50s has been recreated well and there are no obvious anachronisms in the habits or dresses of the people, the police, etc. Though falling well short of an epic, the movie has been mounted on a reasonably big scale. The opening scene, with Murali rising out of the ground covered in mud, is a good start. The scenes where Raghuvaran punishes the villagers and the attacks mounted by the police on the villages are well executed. The fight sequences are also realistic. The script is razor-sharp and many of the dialogs Murali utters about caste divisions - especially to Raghuvaran - are well-written and thought-provoking.

Vadivelu is reigned in and so, his comedy doesn't feel too out-of-place. The sequence where he asks for Meena's hand in marriage with Murali in the house is very funny and he also manages to touch our hearts in the end. But the song sequences, especially the duets, do not fit in. The climax is touching and since it doesn't show the villagers in a good light, it gives us a clue as to why they might have wanted the name Vattaakkudi to be removed from the title.

Murali puts aside his usual role of the pining lover to play Iraniyan and is successful. His dialog delivery is quite fiery and he is believable when he puts aside his personal matters for the good of the people. Meena gets a couple of chances to display her histrionics and impresses. Raghuvaran makes quite a villain with his gruff voice and heartless actions.